Assessing the urban design qualities of the urban street: A case study of Sylhet, Bangladesh

Mohammad Tanvir Hasan, Mustafizur Rahman, Tanjami Siddika


The growing tendency of reckless urbanization in many cities of Bangladesh has upstretched force on an urban street, one of the features of urban structure which ties many areas and scope to move to another portion of the city. Historically, walking is celebrated as the major mode of transportation, cheapest as well, particularly in this agriculture-based region. The practice of walking ensures the development of mental health, and social interaction and promotes sustainable public mobility. But the pressure of urbanization forces the walking environment in the street to perish. Research shows that walking preferences vary among pedestrians. Along with other factors, the urban design qualities of the street significantly stimulate the walking tendency in the street. Urban features like land use, circulation, connection, human scale, landmark, vista, street façade, and other factors may help generate urban design qualities of a particular area. In Sylhet, a city in north-eastern Bangladesh, the urban development process follows top-down approaches, and the reaction and perception of the pedestrians are less recognized. Here, the pedestrian has an option for walking but not a place for social interaction, health benefits, and little priority is given to walkers. The major streets of Sylhet have recently been widened and ornamented with various street fixtures but the question arises: does this progress placate the urban design qualities incorporated with the walking trend? Mostly, interferences aim to solve a current problem like the traffic congestion or lack of space for pedestrians. Research on urban streets or walkability focuses on a quantitative approach where problem-solving is the main agenda but the perception of users and qualities of the street remain unnoticed. In addition, a significant research gap is quite evident which is described on the urban design qualities of the street in Sylhet. Therefore, the purpose of our research is to identify the urban design quality of a major commercial street in Sylhet. The research attempts to identify the qualities which have been explored by Ewin and Handy in 2009. Eight qualities such as enclosure, legibility, human scale, transparency, complexity, coherence, linkage, and imageability are examined by a comprehensive questionnaire survey. A particular group of students from the architecture department, who are familiar with urban design, understand the terms of the urban design qualities, and are also acquainted with the case study area, used the Likert scale to measure the quality of the street. This research identified a subtle significance of urban design qualities on user preferences for walking in the commercial street of Sylhet. Most of the qualities are absent and not considered during street development. Although, there are a lot of opportunities that exist in the present urban fabric to increase the urban design qualities. This study can provide a potential method to identify other street qualities in Sylhet and also can contribute to making the pedestrian ways a place rather than only an option for transportation. The research was focused on a particular area that does not explain the overall quality of Sylhet city.

Keywords: mobility, urbanization, urban design qualities, walking preferences, Zindabazar